Apple does seem to be having problems with its PowerPC G4 Cube. Not only has the tiny desktop machine not been selling as well as the company had hoped, but Apple's customer services department is being bombarded by concerned customers questioning the Cube's build quality.
Since the Cube began shipping during the middle of August, buyers have been spotting what they fear may be cracks within the Cube's polycarbonate shell - hairline marks within the plastic case.
Apple's line on the matter is clear: the marks are "mould lines", a natural and impossible to eliminate effect of the injection moulding process used to build the Cube's casing.
"They are only on the enclosure's surface. Mould lines are not cracks, and do not represent a weakness or defect in the plastic," says an AppleCare service document.
"We are not aware of - and I don't believe there is any issue with - the longevity of the material and anything becoming or emerging as a weakness or crack over time," Phil Schiller, Apple's VP of worldwide product marketing, told CNet. "When the plastic flows around stuff and comes back together, the coming together of the plastic can form a visible seam line. That's a part of the injection moulding process."
Maybe, but why then did CEO Steve Jobs personally get one customer's allegedly crack-ridden Cube replaced? According to the Wall Street Journal, one Kevin Pedraja faxed Jobs a stiffly worded complaint. In return, he got a call from Jobs, who promised a replacement Cube.
So do we have a real issue here, or is it simply a cosmetic glitch? Either way, it's a problem for Apple. Given the Cube is being sold on style and quality, it's not good having mould lines appearing all over the place, which not only sounds like shoddy manufacturing but detracts from the machine's look.
And if there are cracks, either because of a flaw in the plastic or because the Cube's heat dissipation system isn't quite as efficient (Cube is switched on, gets hot and expands; Cube is switched off and contracts; over time, the ever expanding and contracting plastic cracks), that doesn't say very much for Apple's supposedly much-improved QA. We'd hate to see the Cube become the Jobs Era's PowerBook 5300... ®